I ate my first oyster on the half shell when I was 22, persuaded by A Moveable Feast and a chef with very long eyelashes. Sitting in a trés French bistro in Seattle, I sipped my glass of Muscadet and gazed dubiously at the table, where a dozen bivalves reclined in their shells atop a bed of kosher salt. I squared my shoulders and, following the example of my long-lashed dining companion, spritzed a bit of lemon on an oyster and tipped the shell toward my mouth.
The oysters were cold and tasted clean and briny, echoing the Puget Sound outside our window. The Muscadet mirrored the brightness of the lemon, and the flavor of the ocean lingered on my tongue. Everything was quiet. Chef Eyelashes grinned. With one glorious bite, I’d become an oyster-lover for life.
Several years (and relationships) later, I traveled with my boyfriend to wine country in California. The September evening was crisp and I wore a wool dress to our dinner at the French Laundry. Our first course was Thomas Keller’s signature dish, “Oysters and Pearls,” described as a ‘Sabayon’ of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sturgeon Caviar. The Schramsberg blanc de blanc we were drinking clarified and intensified the dish’s delicate richness, and I pronounced “Oysters and Pearls” the best thing I’d ever eaten. Later that night, my boyfriend became my fiancé.
Just a week or two ago, the weather in New York finally turned wintery, and I found myself nestled in a back corner table at a Brooklyn haunt for dinner. I was overstuffed from holiday excesses but still craved something festive; I ordered a half-dozen oysters on the half shell, this time with an ice-cold beer in a frosty mug as accompaniment. I happily slurped down my Long Island Blue Points and was overtaken by the same rhapsodic silence that followed my very first oyster.
This time, the man grinning at me from across the table was my husband.
And thank heaven for that.